In a communique, Pentagon spokesman George Little said that the Navy's SEAL Team Six was given the task of capturing Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, a Kenyan of Somali origin known as "Ikrima" and who is one of the main leaders of the Al Shabaab terrorist group, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda.
The US government had not provided many details about the incursion into Somalia to try and nab Ikrima, an operation that coincided with another successful US anti-terrorist strike in Libya.
"The goal of the operation was to capture Ikrima under legal authorities granted to the Department of Defense by the Authorisation to Use Military Force (2001) against Al Qaeda and its associated forces," said Little in the Pentagon statement.
"While the operation did not result in Ikrima's capture, US military personnel conducted the operation with unparalleled precision and demonstrated that the United States can put direct pressure on al Shabaab leadership at any time of our choosing," he added.
According to different military sources cited by US media outlets, the operation was unsuccessful because the SEAL team encountered more resistance than expected and, after a firefight lasting 15 or 20 minutes, opted to withdraw without having managed to find their target.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the incursion targeting Ikrima and the one undertaken in Libya were not parts of a coordinated operation, but rather they simply occurred by chance at the same time, although both were approved by President Barack Obama.